Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Religion is Divisive

Religion is all too often a source of conflict, division, and judgment between the adherents of different faiths. It doesn't help that religion is inextricably linked with cultural and national identifies with their numerous biases, prejudices, language, dress, and traditions.

It is experienced spirituality that unites hearts. And not the superficial spirituality born of intellectual speculation or passing sentimentality but the realized spirituality that fosters action, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice.

I remember as a boy, growing up Catholic, being taught that the word "catholic" meant universal. I was thrilled at that thought. Later as I grew and became more aware of other faiths and the rigidity of my own faith did I experience the deep disappointment that was inevitable.

I was not alone, and indeed I joined the ranks of millions including such notables as Emerson and Thoreau in experiencing the thrill of discovery of the scriptures and philosophy of India. It was in my college years at Santa Clara University, halfway between Berkeley and Haight Asbury in 1969 when it seemed the staid and jaded adult world around us was breaking apart in favor of a new and hopeful reality. In the vision of the rishis, all time and space were united in the underlying consciousness of Spirit. At last a spiritual view that matched the goals and unfolding vision of modern science which sought the truth underlying all phenomena.

It is not really religion that divides us: it is matter, or outward appearances that command our attention and hypnotize us in seeing the difference rather than the underlying similarity. Our bodies, skin color, gender, language, dress, occupations, attitudes and customs divide us.

Paramhansa Yogananda, whose life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," has been read by millions came to the West from India to bring a new expression of the ancient revelation of the Oneness of life. But the battle of form vs spirit is also universal. Whereas he would claim that the work he began did not constitute yet another sect, one of his closest disciples simply scoffed, "Of course, we are sect." What she meant is obvious: that to others what else could his work and teachings be but another sect? Yet what he meant is that he was offering an experience of reality that could help individuals transcend that narrower view of reality!

And so the division and multiplication continues. Spirituality represents the realization of Oneness and religion represents the effort to share and spread that revelation for the upliftment of others. Thus we find that even in the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, and indeed adding to that those of his guru-preceptors from India (Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar) there have been spawned different branches, teachers, books, and organizations.

That among some of them would arise disagreements, different points of view, attitudes, and controversy should hardly surprise us. Our souls have long been held captive to the body and the hypnosis of outward appearances. The soul's native omnipresence and oneness with God and all life is but a child trying to crawl, to stand, and to walk however haltingly.

Since Yogananda's message and his life's persona was so loving and accepting it seems especially a betrayal when the other human tendencies assert themselves and appear uppermost. For this reason has Swami Kriyananda recently returned "home" to Los Angeles where Yogananda took up residency so long ago and where he, Swami Kriyananda, lived for many years to share the purity of Yogananda's message and the love of Yogananda's heart.

Swami Kriyananda's efforts are a dynamic and courageous example for all of us to live by. He has affirmed Yogananda's unitive teachings and love in the face of scorn, indifference, and derision from some of his fellow disciples. Those of us who, as Yogananda's disciples, seek to represent him should especially take to heart his example. But for all souls, to seek truth, God, and love beneath the surface of all else that divides us is the noblest aspiration and our highest duty.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Success is One (Won)!

Today I and hundreds of others travel to Ananda Village, CA on pilgrimage for an annual week of Spiritual Renewal with Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide work of Ananda. Our subject is the new era of consciousness known by its Indian astrological name, Dwapara (or Second Age). Our era is estimated to be of some 2,400 years in length and to have begun about 100 years ago. It is characterized by an increasing awareness of energy as the reality beyond the multitude of forms. During this cycle of the ages we will advance rapidly in the "conquest" of space as the technology of energy unleashes new forms of communication and travel..

I have the privilege and opportunity of a brief talk this coming week on the meaning and form of success in such an age. Success in the last two thousand years or so was defined by mass and size, and determined by conquest and one's birth. Land was the primary measure of wealth and the power over others and their production that came with ownership. Success meant control and domination.

As we've moved away from the prior age, money and ownership of the means of production have been the measure thus far of our wealth and success. But this is a transitional step as old ways and new ways vie for expression. Note how suddenly we are seeing currencies and all forms of monetary measurement and wealth being eroded by the trillions. Instead, the onset of Dwapara Yuga shows us that information, intelligence, skills and adaptability are the measure of value and success of a human being.

Success will become increasingly defined by integration, balance, and harmony. Cooperation rather than conquest will and is becoming the language of successful people. Success in health means cooperation with laws of natural health and healing; in relationships at work, at home, and in government, cooperation, respect, and mutual support will lead to the greatest success as we recognize that we, and all life of this planet, are united by common goals and interests (regardless of race, creed, caste, or form (human or otherwise)).

Spiritually speaking, success means finding true, and lasting happiness. Happiness is found by seeking it where it exists: within ourselves. Thus meditation will become the dominant characteristic of spirituality where seekers find inner peace, creativity, joy, and vitality at their source. We become devotees when we re-discover the intuitive, soul knowledge that that happiness is not ours alone but is the very nature of creation, of all matter and that behind this energy and consciousness lies the Infinite consciousness of Spirit.

Success is One(ness)!  Joy to you, Hriman